Academic journal article Current Musicology

Producing Producers: Women and Electronic/dance Music

Academic journal article Current Musicology

Producing Producers: Women and Electronic/dance Music

Article excerpt

At the time of our meeting, Ashley lived in San Francisco's famous Haight-Ashbury district now overrun with chain stores such as The Gap and Ben and Jerry's. She lived in a large Victorian house with six roommates, which is fairly typical of twenty-something artists in this city. We walked down a long hallway, through the kitchen and down the stairs to the basement where all her belongings, including the technology she used to make electronic music, were stored in the single room she called home. Inspirational messages--some cut out of magazines and newspapers, others hand-written--adorned the walls, giving some order to the disheveled space. For the next few hours we lounged on a futon on the floor while Ashley related stories about what it was like to be a young woman with few connections to San Francisco's electronic/dance music scene while nevertheless trying to create music and have it heard. There was an experience from a live performance she had recently given that she wanted to talk about:

   I was setting up my equipment and I disappeared for a minute. The
   band had taken my power strip and started plugging their stuff into
   it. The sound guy took it and gave it to the band, but I was going
   on before the band. [It] threw off my whole vibe. I'm a firm
   believer in making friends with the sound guy 'cause they make you
   or break you. Having the power strip stolen was a huge symbol of
   disrespect to me 'cause if I was a guy, and I hate saying this, I
   hate bringing in this if-I-was-a-guy statement, but it's true. If I
   was a guy setting up all my gear and I went to go to the bathroom
   and came back I doubt he would have stolen my power strip you
   know. (1)

With interviews as the primary source material, this article illustrates the processes by which commonplace discursive and material practices situate women outside of the production of electronic/dance music (E/DM) in San Francisco. Because women's efforts in E/DM production are in their infancy, this study is more concerned with the barriers women are experiencing than the strategies they are using to succeed. Nonetheless, our interviews with women who are in the early phases of producing E/DM suggested the importance of strategies including networking with male producers, and working to undo a lifetime of exposure to the gendered discourses that circulate in popular culture, social contexts, and educational environments. Our descriptions and commentary draw on a series of informal, open-ended interviews with twenty-one female DJs and two producers working the large E/DM scene in San Francisco. Talks with the DJs began in the summer of 2003 and continued, on and off, through spring of 2006.

The principal author of this study, Farrugia, first became interested in researching women in E/DM after years of attending E/DM related events and buying E/DM. Farrugia and Swiss collaborated on this project because they were interested in bringing their differing backgrounds, ages, and disciplinary lenses to the materials and data that Farrugia had gathered. The essay is part of Farrugia's larger book-length project about women in E/ DM that first began as a dissertation. The interviews referred to throughout the essay were recorded on a mini-disc and then transcribed. Although the women interviewed are mainly DJs, the essay focuses on producing because many of the DJs interviewed believe that the next step in trying to distinguish themselves from other DJs and gain status within E/DM culture is to find the desire, invest the time, and acquire the skills necessary to produce music.

Farrugia initially made contact with the DJs in 2003 via an Internet mailing list called Sisterdjs. In addition to the original twenty-one interviews, there were thirteen follow-up interviews in 2006. The ages of the women interviewed ranged from 18-40 at the time of the initial interviews; with the exception of two women who are Asian Americans, all of the DJs interviewed are white. …

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